§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I should like to say a word of personal explanation. On December 5th I answered an unstarred Question of the hon. member for king's Lynn, who, I am very sorry to see, is not in his place. I ought to have given him private notice as to the purport of my answer. but the hon. Member asked me whether the Secretary to the Board of Trade in 1881 had in a memorandum stated that it had been decided by the highest legal authority that to impose a countervailing duty in order to neutralise a foreign bounty on sagar would be contrary to the most favoured-nation clause in existing commercial treaties, and whether the legal authority thus referred to was that of the law officers of the Crown. In answer to that i said that "we have no record of any opinion by the law officers given at that time upon the subject." I now find on further investigation that that answer was incorrect. I have no doubt myself that lord Farrer was referring to the law officers as the highest legal authority, and it is the fact that there is 922 on record an opinion of the law officers in 1880 which is in accordance with Lord Farrer's statement.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No. The matter came before the House of Commons Committee sitting on the sugar question, and the opinion of the law officers was shown in confidence to the Committee. The substance of it, I imagine, can be discovered from the cross-examination pursued; but it was felt by the Foreign Office at the time—and quite rightly felt—that it would be contrary to all precedent and would be most inconvenient if the ipsissima verba of the law officers' opinion should be made a matter of public statement and public discussion. But it is the fact that Lord Farrer has accurately stated the general tenor of the law officers' opinion of that day.
§ MK. LOUGH () Islington, W.
In view of this fact, will tho right hon. Gentleman reconsider his objections to give a further opportunity of discussing this most important question?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not see the relevance between a discussion of the question as it is and the opinion given at that time.